YOUNGSTOWN - Speakers at a state EPA hearing on a draft permit for an expansion for V&M Star Steel on Feb. 12 urged the agency to fast-track the issue.
''What these folks (V&M) are trying to do is a wonderful thing,'' said Joseph Planey of Youngstown, who said he remembers when steel was king in the Mahoning Valley. ''I think the EPA should do whatever they can to facilitate and fast track them and help them achieve what they want to achieve. I think it's a good, positive thing for this Valley.''
Don Crane, head of the Western Reserve Building and Trades Council, also urged the EPA to approve the permit as quickly as possible.
''We support this project,'' Crane said.
Crane and Planey were the only two people who spoke about the permit. About 20 people attended the hearing.
The state EPA granted a draft permit to V&M in January. After comments are reviewed, EPA officials will review them before making a final decision, which is expected to take a couple of months.
Ed Perez of the state EPA's Twinsburg office explained the process for the permit, which is needed because the company plans to increase its liquid steel output from 830,000 tons a year to 1.4 million tons because of their expansion.
Perez said the EPA will require V&M to conduct their own reports and tests on site and the EPA will also perform some inspections. The EPA and the Mahoning-Trumbull Air Pollution Control Agency will monitor the site and investigate any complaints, Perez said.
V&M, on the site of the former Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works, makes seamless pipe for the energy industry. The proposed expansion could bring up to an additional 500 jobs at the plant and support industries throughout the region.
V&M officials have been mum about their plans, but they appear to be expanding to take advantage of high energy prices, which fuels a demand for their product.
Perez said the permit covers emissions for some new equipment and existing equipment, such as furnaces, cooling towers and paved and unpaved roads.
The land straddles Youngs-town and Girard, and officials in both communities have been working on a Joint Economic Development District. Youngstown has also agreed to purchase two pieces of property in Girard for the project that are needed for the expansion.